With the reopening of educational institutions across the country, life for children is gradually limping back to normal. Their excitement is palpable, given how unexpectedly and drastically their life had changed over the past two years. Children are keen to reclaim their old life but it will take a while to get used to the new way the pandemic has forced the world to live. Everyday will be a new challenge, but the most challenging part for a child has always been to establish a daily routine.
A child’s daily routine comprises some core activities, like study, eating, grooming, physical training, leisure and sleep. We live in an era when the level of competition every child faces and the pressure of life goals is set in stone from a very early age and time plays a key role in ensuring they meet these demands. Numerous studies have shown that successful time management helps children structure and control their daily activities and develop good study habits besides optimizing their free time for activities that enhance the quality of life.
Interestingly, Stephen Covey, educator and author of the popular book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, said, ‘The challenge is not to manage time, but to manage ourselves.’ Being organized reduces wastage of time and energy as well as stress. Children respond better if they know what is expected of them and when. Like it is with grownups, a basic idea of the next day’s layout allows children to plan and mentally prepare for the task. This is best done before bedtime. Apart from the consistency a routine brings into a child’s life, it also ensures that they remain on course and don’t get overwhelmed especially before examinations, which can be a major reason children experience stress and anxiety at their tender age.
The most tricky part of setting a daily routine is the study time schedule. Besides covering all academic aspects like homework, preparation for test, research for projects, daily revision, regular practice of subjects they find difficult; parents need to take into account their child’s attention span, the number of hours they need to complete the task and the pace at which they work. Often parents disregard their child’s unique requirements and blindly enforce a random study schedule that others are following which ends up doing their child a disservice. So, it might be a good idea to sit down with their child and discuss how much time they could use for a particular task and together draw up a study schedule which the child feels they have been a part of.
But study time can also get boring when a task is repetitive. Monotony is a huge reason children get distracted from the task at hand and resent study time. Alternating between different study activities like reading, writing, memorizing, research and completing assignments is an effective way to beat tedium. A shorter study session punctuated with breaks has also shown to benefit children’s attention span and to keep them motivated.
A brief snack-break or a recreational activity not only allows children much desired downtime, research has shown that when the brain is allowed to rest, the brain goes into default mode which helps to consolidate memories as they reflect on the past making it a crucial part of learning and life experience. Recognizing the serious health implications stress can have on students, The American Psychological Association has also recommended frequent breaks, along with meditation and exercise.
But a break that could prove detrimental to a child’s progress, is when schools remain shut. Given their unstructured lifestyle of the past two years, it’s going to take a while for children to get out of the erratic sleep habits most of them have got used to. And not just to wake up the next morning on time for school, a good sleep habit has long term health benefits. Adequate sleep can reduce the risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes and improve mental health in children and adolescents. According to numerous studies conducted by Harvard Medical School, long term sleep deprivation has been linked to serious health consequence, both physical and mental, that include anxiety and depression. And for college students it’s proven that students having a proper night’s sleep reported a significantly higher GPA than those with six or fewer hours of sleep.
But student life is one of the busiest phases of a person’s life and balancing the demands of academics, socializing with friends, extracurricular activities can make them wish for more time on hand and unfortunately it’s sleep that is often compromised when they want to squeeze in some extra time for these other competing activities. In a blog published on the Harvard Summer School website, sleep expert and faculty member of Harvard Summer School and Harvard Medical School, Dr. Edward Pace-Schott who has been part of numerous studies on sleep, mentions that a good night’s sleep promotes memory strengthening and consolidation. He goes on to suggest that by observing how long one sleeps when they don’t have to wake up at a specified time the next morning, can give an indication of the amount of sleep an individual’s body needs. Once that is established, the next step is to prioritize sleep and stop allowing other activities to cut into that time. Fix a daily bedtime schedule and try to maintain it. Make it a household rule to switch off electronic devices an hour before bedtime and unwind with a book. Only use the bed for sleep and avoid studies, eating or recreation on it.
Parents who hand their children effective time management skills and good habits early in life do them a huge favour. They not only ensure their child’s day is properly organized which is essential to excel overall, they provide them with a strong base for a smooth transition to living an independent life as a responsible citizen.